These tour stats are impressive, but they barely begin to scratch the surface of understanding what it takes to produce a DIY tour with fully independent artists. As he prepares to take his entourage on the fourth #ghostgunsummer road tour in a year, I asked Freddie Bunz to talk about his plans for this run and how he keeps track of all the moving parts.
The Necessity of Touring
The tour will consist of a caravan of three vehicles: one van carrying the nine-person #ghostgunsummer team (a hybrid of Heavy Gun and GhostTown Collective members & their road crew), another van occupied by nine members of Bored. and one car with a filmmaking group from Musical Family Tree. All in all, a grand total of 22 people.
Bunz, the organizer of the tour, didn’t get here over night, though. In fact, he credits Andy D for taking him under his road warrior wing .
“Andy D really did show me a lot. A large part of it is all about making real connections with the people you meet,” Bunz says reflecting on his first time performing on the road.
Building on that momentum, Bunz hit the road again a few months later (this time without Andy D’s guidance) and then again in more recent months. This time around, he’s nearly got it down to a science – right down to the hired driver who doubles as a roadside chef.
Bunz says he never saw himself playing this role (“I thought I was just gonna be like, Freddie Bunz – the artist.”) but one day realized that people won’t just stumble onto his music and become life-long devoted fans on their own.
So he started booking tours because, he says, “That’s what it takes is… leaving here.”
It’s all part of the bigger picture that focuses around building a network of venues and promoters across multiple states and cities. Local fame is great, but Bunz isn’t quick to settle into the idea of working in a bubble, either. And for him, it’s not enough to share Naptown talent with the rest of the country; he wants to bring new styles and sounds to The Circle City, too.
“I used to think, ‘Man! There’s just so much talent here,’ but the truth of it is –there’s dope stuff in every single city on this planet. There are really great, passionate artists of every stroke everywhere you go and I want to be able to feature as much of that as I can.”
Which speaks to the necessity of touring: He has to build that network of contacts that both trust him and who he can trust when it comes to quality, reliable artists so that they can trade dates and share audiences whenever new talent is ready to try their hand at touring.
The Art of Touring
Bunz says he learns something critical every time he and the #ghostgunsummer crew start another adventure on the road. The biggest lesson he learned on the last tour, he says, is timing. Arriving at the destination long before the show starts that night is a crucial part of keeping morale high and stress levels low.
Because of this, they often leave in the middle of the night (this is when having a hired driver comes in handy) and sleep in the van to make sure they comfortably (time wise) get where they need to be the next day. This approach ultimately buys them more chill time on travel days, allowing hour-long rest stops to stretch their legs and make a sandwich out of the cooler.
Which is another key learning Bunz has found only through trial and error: how to stay nourished for cheap while on tour. Fast food catches up quickly with both the wallet and the stomach, so it’s a luxury they reserve for days when they’re most pressed for time.
Instead, the hired driver doubles as a roadside chef and plans as many meals in advance that he possibly can. From smoked, cured meats to pre-boiled, vacuum-sealed pasta – these are all signs that suggest this ain’t these boys’ first rodeo.
But there’s so much more to gain than just how the logistics of moving and feeding bodies works. There are also valuable lessons to be learned about business, communication and networking.
In fact, it’s someone’s job on the #ghostgunsummer road crew to collect the contact information of everyone they meet at every stop on the tour. Then Bunz uses his downtime in the van to connect the very next day on all the appropriate platforms and start working on the next project, before the current one has even concluded.
“I don’t think that there’s ever a bad show,” Bunz says of the unique learning opportunity that is touring. “You might not get the turnout that you want, but something positive happens at every show – whether it’s another artist that you might want to collaborate with or him giving you a lead on another place to book a show. Something positive always comes out of it. It just happens.”
The Success of Touring
Bunz says one of the biggest keys to the success they’ve seen is by finding their niche within mid-level markets – the small-but-large cities that are often overlooked on major tours carrying mainstream acts with big record deals and deep pockets. Noting the willingness of independent artists and promoters to help each other, Bunz says he’s always amazed at how enthusiastic strangers can be when they connect on tour.
“It’s so righteous because people just care about what you’re trying to do. Most people that have pull (like promoters) see it like this: These guys are out here thousands of miles from Indiana doing something their passionate about, not even guaranteed that they’re gonna make fifty bucks. And then they just help you. It might not be money. It might be a place to sleep – and you might be laying like sardines on the floor – but it’s not in the van and that means everything.”
But, ultimately, touring is about connecting with new fans – something Bunz has seen no shortage of, either. This is also a result of the fertile mid-markets they frequent, he says.
“Cities like Augusta, GA; Chattanooga, TN; and Greenville, SC have a good population but they don’t get a lot of stuff coming through,” Bunz says of the warm reception they’ve found in these and other cities across the south.
“People just go out to shows there. That’s a thing that I’ve noticed in other cities: they have venues that people just go to no matter what. They know if the venue has something going on that night, it’s gonna be cool and they just show up.”
The closest he’s seen to something like that – a place that’s truly accessible and approachable by all social circles and musical tastes – in Indianapolis is the HiFi, which is why he’s selected it for their tour kick off show this Monday March 9th.
If you want to help support what Bunz and the rest of the #ghostgunsummer crew are doing, cough up the five bucks (proceeds to help fund food, gas and lodging on the tour) and come give them a good send off.
Curious what tour life is really like?
We are, too. That’s why we’re sending Mojo Minute correspondent Jackie Dee along on the Good Luck In Your Dreams Tour. Keep a close eye on our social media feeds using the hashtag #ghostgunsummer (on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for updates live from the field until they return home on Sunday March 22nd.
Monday March 9, 8:00 PM – $5
HiFi (1043 Virginia Ave Suite 4)
#GHOSTGUNSUMMER (FREDDIE BUNZ, OREO JONES, GREY GRANITE, SIRIUS BLVCK, JOHN STAMPS, WITH ACE ONE.)
SEDCAIRN ARCHIVES ( FORMERLY DMA )
Sirius Blvck Drops the Visuals for “Tribe Quest” Featuring Oreo Jones and DMA
Since his 2007 debut as the frontman for Indian City Weather, Sirius Blvck has been leaving his mark on the Indianapolis music scene as one of the city’s premier emcees. With Indiana City Weather, Sirius released two album that blended the group’s diverse backgrounds in hip-hop, funk, and rock. In 2012, Sirius released his debut solo mixtape titled Smoke in the Trees, which was followed by the first two of three albums with producer Bones of Ghosts.
source: press release
If you didn’t make it to Cataracts last weekend, you should feel like you missed out on something huge. Strewn across a portion of the 128 acres that is Garfield Park, Cataracts Music Festival threw down for its third consecutive year last Saturday. It was my first time, but I can assure you it shall not be my last.
Up until a few days before the date of the festival, Cataracts was scheduled to be held in the Fountain Square neighborhood itself. I’d heard tales of the drunken debauchery, and adrenaline drenched performances that had the whole neighborhood reeling in psychedelic delight. I gotta say, I was pretty excited to climb onto some rooftops and revel in the mythical festival myself. I imagined guzzling a PBR in a dark alley with only barely enough time to catch some punk band I’d only heard of in passing. However, the non-profit festival had to change its game plan after the Fountain Square populous voted against hosting it for the third year. Luckily, plans were arranged to transplant the festival to Garfield Park, and this music writer was still able to revel in the glory.
I had a slight inkling of what to expect as my boyfriend and I drove down I-70 to catch some afternoon performances. I knew there would be psychedelic wailing, skin-tight black cut offs, and tattoos galore at this event, but I was still uncertain about how much I would enjoy this experience. I’ve attended far more electronic and jam-band festivals in my time, but I have a deep appreciation for indie rock, as well. We parked and attempted to stroll into the event with an 8 pack of beer. This wasn’t gonna fly according to the kind souls working the ticket booth. We walked back to the vehicle a bit thrown off, but still fully determined to drink a few brews on that scorching August day. As we glanced around the parking lot we came to the realization that our fellow Cataractians (that what I call ‘em) were pouring their beers into coffee cups. Pure genius. We opted for some Styrofoam Big Gulps, but I secretly wish we could’ve snagged some Diet Coke cans and rocked it “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia “style. I felt like a high schooler again, smuggling my water bottle of vodka into the Homecoming football game. Albeit the football players were gruffy musicians, and the clean cut fans were cig smoking hipsters. None the less, we were finally prepared to enter Cataracts.
The festival had been dedicated to a particular area of the park that Saturday. The rest was inhabited by enormous family reunions, and errant disc-golfers. With four different stages to choose from, we opted to begin with the one closest to the entrance, Foggy Motion. Male Bondage, a hardcore punk band from the area, took my Cataracts virginity. It sounds almost too good to be true, right? This punk quartet was seriously flexing when I waltzed up to the grassy-knoll of a stage. These guys are really kick ass. As a listener, who honestly isn’t totally familiar and/or too comfortable (yet) in the hardcore scene, it wasn’t terribly hard to stand around and enjoy their sound. There were definite riffs, and not really much of thrash. I was happy. As the set ended, we moseyed off towards the center of the park.
There was a man sitting at a type writer with a sign hanging from his desk stating, “Pick a topic, pick a price, get a poem”. My boyfriend choose the topic of hiking trails, and after a few minutes of head scratching and key tapping, he had received a unique poem by Lynn Glenhurst. In a somewhat introspective state now, we continued on our merry way. At the stage, Debbie’s Lot of Freedom, Thee Open Sex had just commenced their set. There isn’t anything smooth and creamy about this band of Bloomington rawwkers. Their lead vocalist, a boisterous blonde lady, was reeling and shouting around stage. Their gritty and heavy sound attracted a large crowd by the end of their set. I sat on the ground simply absorbed by their dynamic presence. At this point a sense of gratitude for the existence of Cataracts filled my being. Following this set, I bumped into some friends and we headed over to catch Raw McCartney’s Fried Family Band at the stage entitled Kirstie Alley.
Raw McCartney’s Fried Family Band brought some serious fast paced heat to an already sweltering day. They churned out trippy, punk sounds during their short, but incredibly intense songs. Distortion and reverb were this band’s choice of noise paired with lo-fi vocals. The fans packed around the stage in a sort of frenzy, as I sort of just stared into their teeming mass. Raw McCartney was undoubtedly chalk, raw rock. Although I was entertained by their performance, I had to scoot off to Oreo Jones, who was performing on the stage, Valley of Things, across the field.
Valley of Things, a square of grass dedicated to live music, was ornamented by a large, foil-wrapped pyramid. It looked like Raiders of the Lost Ark met Star Wars over there. Honestly, I think Jones should adopt that sacred piece of geometry as a permanent backdrop. The whole scene seemed oddly poetic especially with his Hawaiian shirt flapping open in the breeze. Oreo Jones, DMA, and Azieb unleashed their single, “Running”, as their first cut. I haven’t seen any of Oreo Jones’ newer material, so it was pretty terrific getting to see him drop his fresher stuff in person. Additionally, he was backed by both Azieb and DMA on the drums, which built these deep, percussive waves into the show. I might add that “Running” is spectacular live. DMA’s vocals in collaboration with the loops and drums add this incredible volume. I’ve always been a fan of the two drum set up, but Oreo Jones’ songs just seem to be perfectly tailored for that tribal rhythm. The Black Fabio song “Reggie Miller” had the audience chanting everybody’s favorite Pacer’s name in unison. Also, “The John Wayne” was a notable tune dropped by the big guy in black skinny jeans.
I was a blended mix of tired, sun burnt, energized, and sad to depart, when I had to leave Garfield Park after Oreo Jones. Cataracts Music Festival is a true Indianapolis gem, and I’m so gracious I had the opportunity to experience it this year. It makes me proud to be an Indianapolis native when I get the chance to see the cultural, artistic, and musical identity that this great city is forming. I’m already anticipating next year’s offerings.
Oreo Jones’ new album, Betty, is for the erratic listener in all of us. In this collection of swift-moving tracks, milks’ favorite emcee runs through 12 songs in 30 minutes and welcomes guests to the microphone no fewer than four times. Just like a Jimmy John’s sandwich-maker, Oreo employs freaky-fast delivery and has something to offer everyone- no matter what they’ve got a hankering for.
On Betty, his first full-length album following two EP’s and a mixtape, Oreo turned to long-time friend and collaborator 90 Lbs to produce the beats that would create the album’s framework. Drenched in the same distinctive, futuristic synths as The Delicious EP, opening track “House Nigga” launches listeners into shock right out the gate. Rookies to the gospel of Oreo Jones should take note of his iconic articulation showcased in the lines of this song’s chorus; the flawless finesse that sets him apart from other emcees is showcased perfectly here. Just three tracks into the album, Oreo expands his skillset on the hazy, trudging song “Burnt Circles” to take credit for both vocals and production.
Producer and Heavy Gun Blog co-founder J. Brookinz leaves his soulful imprint on three Betty tracks: “Frankie”, “Needy” and “Randy Savage”- the latter bearing resemblance in production style to standout track “Rebel Music” from the southern rock-inspired Gat3way.
J-Hex (front woman for We Are Hex) haunts Oreo’s verses twice on Betty. Her bizarre vocals and eerie chants mix with Oreo’s windy rhymes and 90 Lbs’ rhythmic bleep-bloops to give “No Coast” an awesome, witchy vibe. Six tracks later, on “Option Control”, the emcee-and-crooner duo return- this time with playful vocals that seem to dance and intertwine around a radiant, levitating beat.
KO (former leading lady of Slothpop) shines brightly on “Rotate” and helps close the album on an elegant note of optimism. Written in honor of Oreo’s grandmother (the woman who the album is titled after and whose photo graces the cover), Betty’s final track veers slightly from Oreo’s traditional beat-driven, rapid style of groovy rap. Instead, his delicate lyrics are articulate and unhurried, assuring the listener takes heed to every word of his message.
And just like that, it’s over in the blink of an eye- switching up moods and tempos only half as often as the second hand rotating the clock. If you feel like you went all-in for a high-five with Betty and she left you hanging mid-air, don’t fret; when you purchase a physical or digital version of the album, you’ll be rewarded with 15 extra minutes of bonus material that I promise will leave you feeling more than satisfied (including the ever-popular Cordon Bleu and a special appearance from Andy D on “Play Place”).
Support local and put some dough in Oreo’s pocket by picking up a copy of the capricious Betty today; it’s a delectable smorgasbord of single-serving hip hop songs- sort of like one plate at the china buffet.
Oreo Jones connects with Indy PBR, Freddie Bunz, and Digital Rabbit Productions to launch the first music video from his debut album Betty!
Oreo Jones is kicking off the promotional push for his upcoming album Betty with a music video directed by frequent collaborators Digital Rabbit Productions for his single “Needy”. “Needy” is a bassy banger about the desire of an artist to make it that features a hook from emcee Freddie Bunz and production care of J. Brookinz. Indy PBR made the video possible by sponsoring a small in-store event so Oreo could shoot this intimate performance video. OJ’s new single is just a tease of why everyone needs to cop his album when it drops in early September!
The past few years have been extremely busy for Indianapolis emcee Oreo Jones. In the past year, OJ has orchestrated an indie rock collab EP, dropped his highly successful single and video “Cordon Bleu”, collaborated with Action Jackson on their smash Black Fabio mixtape, performed at several of the best indie shows in Nap, and most recently was voted the #1 hip-hop act in Indianapolis by Nuvo News. With his debut album Betty set to release September 4th via Rad Summer, Oreo has several music videos, singles, and events planned for the next few months!